“Good Times” was originally aired in 1974. The show revolves around Florida and James Evans as they struggled to raise their family in Chicago, Illinois. With their three children, the couple lived-in inner-city projects and displayed the real problems for people similar to them. Overall, the representation of the family showed how the worst kinds can, ultimately, create good times and lifetime memories.
The initial announcement of ABC’s Live In Front of a Studio Audience: “ Good Times” special seemed unnecessary. In fact, the announcement left others weary of how, and who would do the original episode justice. Moreover, how could ABC possibly relate the same themes of the 1970s to 2019. Thankfully, the network knew exactly what they were doing. From the cast to the episode selection, everything was well presented on Wednesday, December 18th. Viola Davis took on the role as Florida Evans while Andre Braugher played James Evans. The children were played by Jay Pharaoh, Asante Blackk, and Corinne Fox, as J.J, Michael, and Thelma Evans. Lastly, Tiffany Haddish showed up and showed out as Willona Williams.
The star of then-and-now was John Amos. Amos originally tackled the role of James Evans when the show first aired. However, after disputes with Normean Leal, the show’s developer, about the ideologies of the show. Specifically, it has been reported that the tension stemmed from how the shows focus was altered after a few seasons. The writers began to focus more on J.J’s antics instead of writing “meaningful dialogue,” said Amos. Later, Lear had an interview with The Hollywood Reporter where he spoke on Amos’s concerns.
“With all the attention being paid, Esther and John began to feel a personal responsibility for every aspect of TV’s first black family’s behavior. That was quite understandable. After reading and hearing from all the world about the show — their pastors, their families, their friends, the press and, soon, their egos — the weight of believing themselves to be the public image of their race became a bit too much for them, especially when they themselves held different views. The Evans family they thought they should be presenting to the world was becoming too good to be true. Allan and I, their white producers and writers, would often hear from Esther or John, ‘No, we wouldn’t do that.’ Or, ‘Uh-uh, I wouldn’t say that,’ or ‘She would never feel that way.’ Some of the cast’s input was invaluable, and I learned a thousand lessons from John and Esther, not just about black people but about our joint humanity. Still, their hypersensitivity to how they were perceived — by social forces that were not of one mind — cost us all dearly.”
Thankfully, the dispute was put behind them. Amos returned to the special Wednesday as Alderman Fred Davis, an old politician running for re-election against Jimmy Pearson, who was played by Jharrell Jerome.
The presence of Patty LaBelle and Anthony Anderson opened the show. Together, the duo sung the theme song. At the end of the episode, former “Good Times” stars got a standing ovation. The original actors of J.J, Thelma, and Willona were all in attendance. These actors included Bernnadette Stanis, Ja’net Dubois, and Jimmie Walker.
To anyone who didn’t witness the special, check it out on Hulu or the abc.com!